Search This Blog

Thursday, May 03, 2007


In Orwell’s prophetic novel, the three ministries of Plenty, Peace and Love were named to confuse the people of his fictional city of Oceania into thinking Big Brother was always working in their behalf. In each case they meant just the opposite, while representing a level of propaganda that we hadn’t seen again until the current Bush administration. In keeping with this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) goes on its merry way winning some and bungling others. The Do-Not-Call law, above, is sheer genius, but certainly an anomaly considering it was enacted under a Republican administration. The FTC’s handling of the identity crisis is a complete bust as far as I am concerned, a view also shared by some other privacy advocates. My reasoning is that you cannot repeatedly side with business in consumer issues when you are supposed to be representing the consumer. The issue in point is a recent report from the FTC recommending standards for consumer data. Junk mail industry publication, Direct, reports the FTC “… recommended that standards be established to provide for notification of consumers when a data breach occurs that poses a significant risk of identity theft.” In other words, let the data breacher decide when it is appropriate to confess. ChoicePoint’s February, 2005 loss to data thieves of 163,000 private records would probably never have been reported if not for a new California law. But the agency did expand the number of ID theft victims from the CP breach from 1,500 to 2,900. That is almost 2% of the 163,000. When you apply that percentage to the 154 million sensitive records lost since Feb. 2005, you get over 2.7 million victims. History tells us that if you leave this kind of judgment to business, they will always err on the side of their stockholders; the consumer be damned. And then the article quotes some heavy statistics showing 30 to 48% of consumers shop less online due to fear of financial information being stolen. The FTC’s concern: “Consumers’ fears of becoming identity theft victims may harm our digital economy.” All hail The Ministry of Consumerism.

No comments: